Aside

… Or not to publish

A photo of what is called a die-in at the silent protest held at Wits on August 17 was featured on the front page of the Wits Vuvuzela. As in every newsroom, the right to publish the picture or not was fiercely debated. Two of our journalists, Candice Wagener, who took the photo, and Tebogo Tshwane, who also covered the protest, state their opposing views on the decision.

I was at the Wits Silent Protest that happened on the main campus last week Wednesday, August 17. I attended as a journalist for Wits Vuvuzela and wore a protest t-shirt to show my solidarity for the cause.

About seven of us attended the protest to produce content on various platforms for our publication. We were generally given access to the protest to cover it in a sensitive manner and whenever we could, we approached individuals and organisers for permission as we went along doing our work.

After being explicitly asked not to publish photos or any media of the die-in in this year’s Silent Protest, we at Wits Vuvuzela, did just that. I believe it is important for a journalist to maintain a relationship of respect and trust between themselves and the people they report on and part of that relationship entails heeding an individual’s request not to be photographed, quoted or represented in the media.

It was careless, disrespectful and insensitive that our front page was published with no regard for the requests made by the organisers. It would have been better even to consult with the organisers about the appropriateness of the image. Some of my colleagues expressed strong feelings about how the image “contextualised” or was “the most compelling” representation of the silent protest but there was no effort to ask the organisers their advice.

Now a breach of trust has happened for a photo which to me was indiscernible and not all that compelling to begin with. Was this photo really in the public interest? I disagree that it was.

If the point was to get an image of the scale of the protest there were numerous opportunities to do that throughout the day. Whether it was during the march, or when everyone assembled on the AMIC deck after the march, or even after the die-in when people were sitting in the circle listening to testimony. I can’t speak to why this did not happen but there were opportunities to get a similar shot without breaching the request not to capture the die-in.

The long and short of this is that when you are in a space where there are survivors of sexual violence and rape and they say no, you have no room to negotiate what this “no” means. The only response is to listen and to accede to that request.

Originally published on Wits Vuvuzela: http://witsvuvuzela.com/2016/08/26/or-not-to-publish/

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